Placements are basically extended internships or work experience assignments. Industrial placements might form part of your course at university.
This is particularly the case if you’re doing a sandwich course, where your studies are ‘sandwiched’ (geddit?) around a yearlong work placement. Otherwise, placements might be undertaken in the summer.
‘Placement’ is a pretty broad term and it gets bandied about by employers, so when applying always check exactly what they mean by placement.
The kinds of placements we’re talking about here are industry placements or vacation placements that count towards your course, not work experience placements or internships.
Sandwich placements can last from six to twelve months, while summer ones are understandably much shorter. A huge number of placements up for grabs across a whole variety of industries.
What kind of work would I be doing during my placement?
Well, it varies dramatically, but rest assured, you won’t just be making tea. You may have to do some general administrative duties, but there will also be plenty of opportunities to develop your skills on meatier assignments. Unlike work experience, you’ll basically be an employee of the company and that means performing similar tasks.
What’s the point of doing a placement?
Doing a placement as part of your course gives you the double whammy of work experience and education. Placements can increase your employability (our favourite word) and help you when you’re entering the graduate job market.
It can offer you an extended taster of your chosen career and can help you decide, once and for all, whether you want to pursue it.
It’s often said that placements can help you in your final year studies. In fact, research has shown that placement students often get a better final degree. An industrial placement also gives you a chance to build up contacts in your chosen industry, and, you never know, you might even come away from a placement with a job offer.
Will I be paid?
The majority of placements are paid, with students earning on average £15,000 per annum. You should check with your university to see whether you’ll have to pay tuition fees (most universities offer half the normal yearly fee or even less) and whether they offer placement allowances. If your placement is unpaid, your university might offer a bursary.
If you’re doing a placement in the public or voluntary sector, you might be eligible for the same student finance you receive whilst studying full-time at university. Otherwise, you’ll be eligible for the full student loan if your placement lasts less than a year and you spend ten weeks or more at university.
If your financial situation gets desperate, you can still apply for assistance from the Access to Learning Fund, as you’ll still be enrolled as a student.
Applying for placements…
You should treat applying for placements like applying for jobs. That means spending serious time on your applications. The competition for placements is high and you need to get in early, some employers’ placement application deadlines are at the end of the first term of second year.
Your application and CV should be tailored for the area of work and company you are applying to. You need to demonstrate you have the skills that they require for the placement.
With sandwich courses, your university or college will usually have a placement tutor who is there to help students apply for placements, so make sure you get in contact with them.
Otherwise, if you have a strong interest in a particular sector or an employer who isn’t advertising placements, then there is no harm in sending off a speculative application (a covering letter/email and CV) and asking whether they might offer you a placement. Have a look at our list of placements too. Good luck!